People Told ‘Memory’ Director Michel Franco Jessica Chastain ‘Would Be a Nightmare’ After Her Oscar Win: ‘She’s the Opposite’
In her latest film “Memory,” Jessica Chastain is out of the prosthetics and wigs and off the awards circuit (for now) required by playing two Tammys — Wynette and Faye Bakker — for Showtime’s “George & Tammy” and her Oscar-winning “Eyes of Tammy Faye.” To play Sylvia, a recovering alcoholic grappling with childhood trauma for Michel Franco’s devastating Venice and Toronto premiere “Memory,” the Oscar winner and Emmy nominee wears no makeup, had no trailer, and bought her own costumes for the indie’s New York shoot. “Because I have been doing bigger things sometimes and have gotten a lot of attention as of late, [there’s been the idea] that I would not be interested in being on a set without a trailer,” Chastain said in an interview out of Toronto. “We had the Oscars, and I won for ‘Tammy Faye,’ and then right after that, I showed up on set to do ‘Memory.’ Michel said that a lot of people told him, ‘Oh Jessica is going to leave your film because she just won an Oscar.’” “Or that she is going to show up and be a nightmare and be a diva,” said Franco, working with his most high-profile cast so far, including Venice Best Actor winner Peter Sarsgaard. “I told them, you don’t know half of it. She’s the opposite. She’s going to show up satisfied, happy, and be productive. People are so afraid of actors. I don’t know why. The worst way to approach an actor or any person is with fear, and if you are pointing in the wrong direction then, yes, all your nightmares will come true.” Franco said his stakeholders were skeptical. “They were all puzzled. Like what are we going to do with this Oscar-winning actress?” But no matter, as the drama is now hotly acclaimed — and able to promote itself with cast at hand thanks to a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement and a tiny New York production without AMPTP involvement. “I’m not doing a movie to be pampered. If I want to be pampered, I’ll go to a spa. I’m doing a film to work and to be creative, and I don’t need to sit by myself in a trailer,” Chastain said. Sarsgaard co-stars in “Memory” — the most empathetic portrait of broken people yet from the Mexican director of cold provocations like “New Order” and “Chronic” — as a sketchy-seeming former high school classmate of Sylvia’s who follows her home after a reunion. As the pair of damaged goods grow closer, we learn Saul also has dementia and lives under the care of his brother (Josh Charles) and niece (Elsie Fisher). The constantly and unpredictably refreshing slate of Saul’s psyche makes it easier for the troubled Sylvia to connect with him — but not after trying to exploit his memory impairment by falsely scapegoating him for her high school-aged abuse. People do complicated things when they’re numbing their pain.